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Flint, MI—For years, a former Flint pastor and woman tricked individuals into investing with them by saying it was what God wanted them to do.
Now, with more than 140 victims and $9.3 million in losses, the duo has been sentenced to a total of about 12 years in prison for fraud.
On Oct. 8, U.S. District Court Judge Laurie Michelson sentenced former Flint pastor Larry Holley to 100 months in prison, and his associate, Patricia Gray, to 42 months in prison.
Holley, 64, lived in Grand Blanc but was the pastor of Abundant Life Ministries International Church in Flint. Gray, 60, of Flint, was his paid associate. According to the indictment document, beginning around 2014, the two worked together to find and convince individuals to turn over their retirement funds and other savings to Holley’s company, Treasure Enterprise, LLC, for “real estate investments.”
They held financial seminars and “Blessed Life Conferences” at various churches, and told individuals that the investments would be highly profitable and risk-free. Holley told them that investing in real-estate was what God wanted them to do. Specifically, he said God wanted them to invest their money with men and women of God rather than bankers.
The sentencing memorandum court document for Holley states that he told attendees at one conference that they could not lose by investing with him:
“We’re going to trust God for some big things here. I’m going to pray with you tomorrow. I’m going to release the anointing of the business, you know, in real estate,” he said. “Amen. Don’t be afraid of real estate. Don’t be afraid. You’re not going to lose. You’re not going to lose.”
According to the indictment document, Holley and Gray would ask conference attendees to fill out cards disclosing their financial resources, their savings, and their goals. Holley promised to pray over the cards, and then members of their team met with people individually to discuss using their retirement money for investments with the company.
Once an individual agreed to invest, they were assured that their funds would be “rolled over into qualified retirement accounts without tax penalties,” according to Holley’s sentencing memorandum. But instead, the funds were usually deposited into Treasure Enterprise’s business account, resulting in “substantial tax consequences for the investors.”
Holley and Gray also got individuals with good credit scores to take out personal loans to invest with Treasure Enterprise, promising them that the company would make all loan payments and provide them with additional income.
According to the sentencing memorandum document, they knew that funds being generated by Treasure Enterprise “were insufficient to repay investors the promised return.” When investors attempted to contact Holley about late or missing payments, they were ignored or given excuses.
Holley’s solution was to find more investors, whose funds would then be used to repay earlier investors. This “multi-year Ponzi scheme” went on and on without Holley and his team informing new investors about their financial difficulties, or that their money would be used to pay earlier investors.
On March 28, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) initiated a civil case against Treasure Enterprise, Holley, and Gray in the Eastern District of Michigan. A receiver was appointed to manage assets, and “has identified approximately 142 victims of the investment scheme, who suffered losses of approximately $9.3 million in principal investment amounts.”
In addition to suffering financial hardships, the sentencing memorandum document states that the victims were also caused “severe emotional distress, with many victims living with anxiety, stress, shame, and the betrayal of trust they had placed in people who came to them as Christians.”
On April 4, 2018, the case was taken to U.S. District Court. In 2019, Holley and Gray each pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud.